The arrow of Progress hurtles onward, gathering speed as it streaks toward our gleaming George Jetson future. Which is good, but I’m still wondering: where’s my flying car?
    Mankind’s progress over the past century has been startling. A hundred years ago, horses were the main source of horsepower on the farm. Equines have since been supplanted by infinitely incomprehensible, computer-controlled, GPS-guided tractors that have more power in their starter motors than an average horse.
    There are still plenty of horses out in the country, but most are kept for pleasure and companionship. I just hope I will someday be deemed worthy of similar treatment.
    My six decades of living have seen some huge leaps.
    For instance, I was potty trained in an outdoor privy. This was fairly standard at the time and was not as bad as one might think.
    This was because there was never any wait to use the biffy in the wintertime. When it’s 10 below, alacrity is required to avoid frostbitten tender bits.
    Another upside was the total lack of bathroom envy. We might be a wee bit jealous of someone who had seats in their outhouse instead of plain old holes. And we might say “My, how fancy!” to discover that a neighbor’s privy was equipped with a roll of TP instead of a Sears catalogue.
    There was no lavatory jealousy. No one griped, “The Olsons’ bathroom has a shower the size of a car wash! And their toilet is so powerful they had to post a warning sign about small children! Why can’t we have a potty like theirs?”
    The simple act of obtaining water took planning and patience. A rock-walled cistern below our farmhouse held our water supply and a hand pump was its delivery system.
    Planning was needed because the pump often had to be primed. This meant thinking far enough ahead to save priming water. This is similar to choosing a name for your child before he’s born instead of madly searching for a suitable moniker in the hospital’s phone book. Not that I would know anything about that.
    It was a huge deal when our parents installed indoor plumbing. We flushed our snazzy new toilet multiple times, marveling at the whirlpool, wondering where the water went.
    But the system had limitations. We still depended on the old cistern to supply our water. A jet pump in the basement had merely taken over pumping operations.
    The amount of water we could use was contingent on the rainfall. Eaves troughs funneled rainwater from the house’s roof to the cistern. This was great when it rained, not so much when it didn’t.
    When the cistern ran dry, we’d phone Hank DeKnikker, a local seed corn salesman who hauled water as a side gig.
    It was a joyous event at our house when Hank’s truck backed up to the house and refilled the cistern. Hank would crack the valve on his tank and the wondrous sound of water gushing into the cistern coursed throughout our farmhouse.
    My parents always invited Hank in for a cup of coffee as the cistern filled and he always accepted. Hank was consuming some of our precious water but it seemed fitting, like sacrificing a little water for priming.
    Our parents eventually determined that the old cistern was leaking. I didn’t say anything, but having several cleanliness-obsessed teenaged females living at home may have had something to do with the rapid water disappearance.
    The cistern was allowed to go empty and its concrete lid hoisted off. A ladder was lowered into its depths and I was volunteered to climb down.
    The cistern was cool and damp as a grave; it even had an earthen floor. Closer examination proved that the floor was actually a thick layer of mud. Mud that probably came from billions of raindrops that had each delivered a mote of dust. I didn’t want to think about what the birds might have left on the roof.
    Tree roots had wormed their way through the stone walls. The roots had to be chiseled out and the holes plastered over. A new plaster floor was lain, and the entire cistern was coated with waterproof varnish.
    The varnish created an almighty stench in the cistern. But I was lucky that our Norwegian bachelor neighbor Martin was down there with me. Martin was a world-class water miser. His BO easily overwhelmed the stink from the varnish.
    A few years later, we installed a well and a submersible pump for the house, and we discovered what it’s like to have an unlimited water supply.
    The future suddenly seemed positively gleaming! Or maybe it was just the glow from our much-cleaner faces.
    Jerry is a recovering dairy farmer from Volga, S.D. He and his wife, Julie, have two grown sons and live on the farm where Jerry’s great-grandfather homesteaded over 110 years ago. Jerry currently works full time for the Dairy Star as a staff writer/ad salesman. Feel free to E-mail him at: jerry.n@dairystar.com.